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12 Most Common Types of Cancer

By HERWriter
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Cancer is a general term used to talk about conditions where abnormal cells grow out of control. Some types of cancer form masses or tumors while other types invade surrounding tissues.

Cancer is named after the type of cells it grew from. For example, cancer that starts in the lungs is known as lung cancer. It is possible for cancer to develop or grow in any kind of cell anywhere in the body.

Scientists recognize over 100 different types of cancer. These are the most common cancer types in the United States:

• Bladder cancer
• Breast cancer
• Colon and rectal (also known as colorectal) cancer
• Endometrial cancer
• Kidney cancer (renal cell)
• Leukemia cancer (blood)
• Lung cancer
• Melanoma cancer (skin)
• Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (blood)
• Pancreatic cancer
• Prostate cancer
• Thyroid cancer

As cancer develops and grows, cells can break away from the original location and get into the blood or lymph systems which can carry the cancer cells to other areas in the body. When cancer moves to other organs or tissues it is said to have metastasized.

But even though the cancer may have a new location, it keeps its original name. So lung cancer that travels to the liver is still known as lung cancer.

Cancer can also be categorized based on organ groups or body systems. Some of these types of cancer include:

• Blood cancer – Leukemia and lymphoma are two types of blood cancer.

• Bone cancer – These cancers, such as osteosarcoma, are more common in children and teens.

• Brain cancer – This type of cancer typically forms as a tumor in the brain. Brain tumors can be benign which means non-cancerous, or malignant which means cancerous. Brain cancer rarely spreads to other parts of the body. But other types of cancer can metastasize as tumors in the brain.

• Gastrointestinal cancer – These cancers are also sometimes called digestive cancers. This cancer type includes all cancers affecting the digestive system from the esophagus to the anus.

• Gynecological cancer – This group includes all cancers affecting the female reproductive system.

• Respiratory cancer – Lung cancer is the most common example of this cancer type.

• Skin cancer – Damage from the sun is a common cause of some of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the U.S. including melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.

There are many other types of cancer not included in this list. Some types can also be divided into two or more sub-categories. Researchers recognize that different types of cancer grow differently and need to be treated in different ways.

If you are diagnosed with cancer, knowing what type of cancer it is will help your doctor put together an effective treatment plan.


About.com: Cancer. Types of Cancer. Lisa Fayed. Web. September 21, 2011.

National Cancer Institute. Common Cancer Types. Web. September 21, 2011.

University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Cancer Information Alphabetical List. Web. September 21, 2011.

Reviewed September 22, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.